Book Review: Lock and Key

Lock and Key
Published By: Viking Juvenile
Release Date: April 2008
Buy it at Amazon
Source: Library
Format: Audio-book
**This is a Young Adult novel**

If you have not read Sarah Dessen I highly recommend her. I am not sure what it is about her style, but every book I have read written by her has captivated me. I wasn't able to give this book 5 birdies simply because it didn't live up to Just Listen. Just Listen is the Sarah Dessen book I hold all others against.

Lock and Key follows the story of Ruby Cooper, a teen who has grown up in an abused and neglected household. Her mother rarely holds down a job and bills often often go unpaid forcing the pair to move constantly. Ruby's mother, an alcoholic, also has a habit of bringing home strange men. So it's no surprise to Ruby when her mother's things go missing and she doesn't return home. Ruby sees this as her chance at freedom, however, she's not quite up to the task of living on her own just yet. The house is without water and heat until the landlords discover her dirty little secret and contact social services. Ruby is then thrust into a world of wealth and privilege when she goes to live with her older sister, Cora, and her brother in law, Jamie. I think this is a powerful book for teens going through similar situations. Ruby learns to cope with her past and move on to a brighter future. Sure, a lot of teens don't get that silver lining, but if this book inspires even one kid to stay in school or strive for change, then I think it has met its purpose. I think it is important for readers to be able to see their real life problems reflected in characters who can be strong role models. 

Ruby is a strong female character; she doesn't need anyone else to solve her problems. I found her to be a character that will stay with me for awhile. Like most of Sarah Dessen's books I am always bummed out when I get to the end; I am never quite ready to let the characters go.

I also love that throughout this book there is a constant theme of family. Ruby struggles throughout the book to define family and she comes up with some interesting thoughts on the matter by the end of novel. I loved seeing this definition shift and change for her as time progressed. It made me also consider my own definition of family.

I also enjoyed the symbolism with the pond in the backyard. The pond, in my mind, became a symbol for Ruby. During the winter, the pond was dormant and the fish were not visible as they slumbered in the depths, hidden from sight amongst vegetation. This is how I saw Ruby at the beginning of the novel. She was hiding who she truly was and the dreams she was scared to allow herself to have. As Ruby becomes comfortable letting others care about her, she becomes like the fish who rise to the surface in the spring.

I will warn readers that as much as I love Sarah Dessen's work it always a bit predictable. Girl has issues, girl meets boy, they fall in love, girl or boy pushes the other away, they get back together and live happily ever after. I know this going into her books and I read them because sometimes I just need that happy ending. I find that people that go into her writing expecting more are often disappointed.

Also, I love books set in the South. Sarah Dessen does a beautiful job of bringing to life her community in North Carolina. I admire that ability and hope to bring it to my own work someday.

Finally, the quality of this audio-book was quite good. I enjoyed the narrator's tone and she was able to give each character their own distinctive flare. I would highly recommend it if you are looking for an audio-book.

One Last Gripe: I didn't like that the book ended without a firm resolution for Nate. She alluded to what would happen next, but I really wanted to know for sure.

My Favorite Thing About the Book: Watching Ruby & Harriett evolve into stronger people

First Sentences: "And finally," Jamie said as he pushed the door open, "we come to the main event. Your room."

Favorite Character: Cora

Least Favorite Character: Payton

After her mom vanished in a stench of drugs and alcohol, Ruby continued to live in the family house alone. Finally found out, the introspective teenager is sent to the luxurious home of her older sister, Cora, whom she hadn't seen in ten years. Everything there seems unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and supremely weird: her fancy new room; her lavish new wardrobe; the exclusive private school where she never quite fits in. Most mysterious of all is Nate, the friendly boy next door who seems to have a deep secret of his own. Another subtle character-driven teen novel by Sarah Dessen, the author of Just Listen and That Summer.


  1. I felt the same way about Nate. I needed to know more.

  2. Great Review! I have to admit, I've never read Sarah Dessen but I really want to! Even my Grandma has read Sarah Dessen, which makes me feel very bad!

  3. @Kelley - I just thought Nate was left so open ended considering what he had been through. I'd love to see a book with him as the main character. I think there is more to explore there.

    @Katie - My favorite Sarah Dessen is Just Listen. I'd recommend starting there. :)

  4. I totally agree with what you said about Sarah--there's just something about her writing that draws you in.
    My comparison book would be The Truth About Forever but I want to read all her books!

  5. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    I will have to check this book out.


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